Acid-washed terror

Pub date April 5, 2011

RETRO GORE With the upcoming release of Scream 4 — the overlong-awaited latest in a series riffing on 1980s slasher clichés — it feels like a good moment to review the source material, which is to say the deadly spawn of Halloween (1978) and Friday the 13th (1980). Issued at the heyday of the direct-to-video market, those films’ myriad cheap-and-cheaper knockoffs explored the full range of variably amateur charm.

Two years ago Ti West made a very nice homage in The House of the Devil, a babysitter-in-peril thriller that was slick and canny enough to get an actual theatrical release. No such thing is risked by Drew Rosas’ Blood Junkie, a new DVD release from Troma — the company so indiscriminate it can’t help but release a good movie once in a while. (Still, it should dial down its contempt: Lloyd Kaufman’s recycled all-purpose introduction suggests any movie might be better than the one you’re about to watch.) This dead-on parody of no-budget VHS horror circa 1987 (according to its website, Blood Junkie was “shot in Wisconsin for $7,000”) is a sleeper and a keeper for anyone who covets the worst of Reagan decade style.

Mulleted Craig (Nick Sommer) and fellow pencil-‘stached buddy Teddy (Mike Johnston) are on the prowl for chicks, a quest answered when they meet high school best friends Rachel (tube-topped Emily Treolo) and Laura (feather-haired, four-eyed Sarah Luther), who has just come into a big $35 booze budget left as grocery money by traveling parents for her insect-tormenting brainiac little bro Andy (Brady Cohen). The attraction is irresistible; Teddy alone sports a lime-green tiger-striped T, denim vest, and acid-washed jeans. Babe magnet!

Anyway, this quartet plus imp go camping near an abandoned chemical plant. Bad things happen, thanks to a killer of extremely vague identity and motivation. Which is just as it should be.

With its dweezly synth score, post-synched dialogue, lowbrow FX, fake aerobics workouts, and pseudo-age-streaked “film” stock, Blood Junkie is pure retro-flavva’d silliness. One nice touch is the male protagonists’ bromantic frisson — played as a joke, albeit so persistently that Craig’s offhand mid-wrestle “I seriously want you, man” feels like a naked confession.